Cubs Record: 53-35 (1st in NL Central, 7.5 games ahead of St. Louis)
W: Kyle Hendricks (6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER 2 BB, 3 K)
L: Martin Perez (5.2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K)
MVP: Kyle Hendricks and bullpen
After a five-day absence, Cubs baseball is back! How would the Cubs perform after some much needed rest and relaxation? They would perform well, of course, and this game reminded me of what we got used to seeing before that really crappy stretch of baseball before the All-Star break.
Kyle Hendricks was on his game today and he consistently induced weak contact from the Rangers’ bats. The 1st inning was the only frame in which he allowed multiple runners to reach base during the game. The Rangers went 0-10 with runners on base with Hendricks pitching.
The bats came alive in the 6th inning as the Cubs sent 10 batters to the plate, with five of them scoring. Kris Bryant led off the inning with a liner to left field and Anthony Rizzo hit a ball that, on a normal day, would have been sent into the bleachers. Alas, he had to settle for a mere double. Willson Contreras followed that with a walk, which was promptly followed by an Addison Russell two-run single.
Jason Heyward got into the action thanks to a throwing error by Prince Fielder, who tried to throw Contreras out at third. The ball sailed high and ended up in the seats, which allowed Russell to reach third, Heyward to reach second, and Contreras to score. Javy Baez grounded out to third and Albert Almora flew out to short center to bring Matt Szczur to the plate with 2 outs. The pinch-hitter belted a two-run single back up the middle to further increase the lead. Ben Zobrist walked and Kris Bryant flew out to center to end the inning.
Carl Edwards Jr. pitched well in his inning of work, striking out two and keeping the Rangers off of the basepaths. Addison Russell looked awesome at the plate today. Every single ball he put into play was a hit hard and I can see him breaking out in a big way in the second half of the season.
There were a couple of awesome defensive plays in the top of the 9th. Prince Fielder hit a grounder to the right side that deflected off of Rizzo. Baez made a barehanded pick and threw him out at first. The description of the play is very meh, but it was amazing to witness. To get the final out, Albert Almora had to run down a hard-hit ball to the warning track and slid while he was catching it. It was great to see the Cubs flash the leather so late in the game.
I had to watch the Rangers broadcast due to blackout restrictions because of my location, and it was much different than I’m used to with Len and JD in the booth. The Rangers broadcast wasn’t nearly as fun or quirky as the Cubs’ is on a daily basis. They seemed rather mechanical/rigid and focused solely on the game, which isn’t bad, just that baseball is supposed to be a fun game that doesn’t take itself to seriously. I was disappointed in the lack of puns and jokes being thrown around. The two broadcasters didn’t seem to have great chemistry either.
The rain started to fall in the top of the 8th, and I was worried that we’d have to deal with a delay. Fortunately, it didn’t rain enough to warrant a stoppage in play.
Jason Hammel (7-5, 3.46 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) will square off against Yu Darvish (2-0, 2.87 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), who’s making his first start since the 8th of June. He was out of the lineup with neck and shoulder strains, and hopefully can stay injury free throughout the second half of the season. First pitch is at 1:20 local time.